Criticism & Features

NBCC Reads

Guest Post: Michael Lukas’s Summer Reading List

By Jane Ciabattari

NBCC member Michael Lukas, a finalist in the Virginia Quarterly Review’s Young Reviewers Contest last year (and a VQR blogger), sent word on what he’s looking forward to reading this summer.

For the past six months I’ve been holed up in Madison, Wisconsin with the last draft of my novel and a girlfriend preparing for her Ph.D. preliminary exams. Needless to say, I have had lots of time to read. My goal for the summer is to read John Steinbeck’s novels straight through in chronological order. But before I dive into that, there are three other books I have been looking forward to for a long time.

The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet, Reif Larsen. Penguin Press.
Larsen’s debut novel tells the story of a 12-year old genius mapmaker from Montana who travels to the Smithsonian to receive a prestigious award. Ann Godoff (the president of the Penguin Press, who has edited Zadie Smith, Salman Rushdie, and Thomas Pynchon to name a few) called it “completely unique from page one” and said it’s “so good it resists publishing hyperbole.” Illustrated throughout with cartographic drawings and marginalia, the book itself is a work of visual art. It also has an awesome website,

A Mind at Peace, Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar. Archipelago Books.
When Orhan Pamuk calls a book “the greatest novel ever written about Istanbul” you know it’s got to be good. Tanpinar was a leading light of Turkish letters and A Mind at Peace is his magnum opus. When President Obama visited Turkey, he was presented with a copy of the book a leader of the Turkish parliament. Called the Turkish Ulysses, this novel was translated into English just last year, sixty years after its initial publication. Kudos to Archipelago and translator Erdag Goknar (of My Name is Red fame) for taking it on.

Gilead, Marilynne Robinson. FSG.
This novel has been on my to-read list since it came out five years ago. But when I heard Robinson read a passage at the NBCC reading at AWP, it jumped to the top of the list. Plus, I figure I should read it before I leave the Midwest.